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Search and Rescue Efforts Continue in New York City - 2001-09-12

A massive search effort continues at the New York site that was once the location of the World Trade Center.

New York city officials say they still hope to find survivors buried under the rubble of the two towers that dominated the New York city skyline. Only a few people have been located so far. But rescue workers say that people trapped in voids or air pockets may still be alive.

Search teams from as far away as Puerto Rico have joined the rescue effort. But their work has been hampered by the huge amount of debris concrete, twisted steel, and shattered glass that covered the ground after the collapse of the two towers and a smaller, 47-story building in the World Trade Center complex.

Rescue workers had to remove the debris from the area surrounding the collapsed buildings before they were able to get directly to the site. Barges are taking much of the debris out of the city. New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani says it will take two to three weeks to clear the area.

City officials refuse to estimate the death toll. But Mayor Giuliani has braced New Yorkers for numbers he calls unbearable. He says the city has based its recovery efforts on a few thousand casualties in each of the towers. At least 200 firemen and 50 police officers are missing.

The mayor says New Yorkers have shown that the spirit of the city is about its people, not its buildings. He encourages everyone to get involved in helping out during New York's darkest days. "There are going to be a lot of people today who need help and need assistance, either because of the fact that they know people who were lost in this terrible tragedy or because they are just frightened of what may happen," he said. "If you could, comfort them and help them and assist them, particularly elderly people. That might be a way in which you can contribute."

About 1,200 businesses employ about 50,000 people in the entire World Trade Center complex. New York officials believe many people were able to escape in the one hour between the terrorist attacks and the collapse of the two towers. The third building had already been evacuated when it collapsed about seven hours after the two towers.

New York Governor George Pataki says the city remains in a state of "highest possible alert," with boats on continuous patrol of the waterways surrounding the island of Manhattan. Police can be seen on streets throughout the city. Their presence is particularly heavy at major landmarks and the United Nations. Access to Manhattan remains limited. And the reservoir that supplies New York city its water is under guard.

Lines of people are waiting to donate blood at hospitals and blood banks throughout the city. Local restaurants and shops are sending food, and many churches remained open through the night. Governor Pataki says one of the biggest challenges facing the city is to find enough personnel to help New Yorkers "cope with loss and deal with the scope of their nightmare."